Physics MCAS Review Resources

Below is a listing of the science content standards on which the Introductory Physics MCAS exam is based.  Below each of the standards is a link to a website that provides information to help review concepts related to the standard.  This page continues to be developed and more resources will be added.

1. Motion and Forces

Central Concept: Newton’s laws of motion and gravitation describe and predict the motion of most objects.

1.1   Compare and contrast vector quantities (e.g., displacement, velocity, acceleration force, linear momentum) and scalar quantities (e.g., distance, speed, energy, mass, work).

Scalar vs vector:

1.2   Distinguish between displacement, distance, velocity, speed, and acceleration. Solve problems involving displacement, distance, velocity, speed, and constant acceleration.

1.3   Create and interpret graphs of 1-dimensional motion, such as position vs. time, distance vs. time, speed vs. time, velocity vs. time, and acceleration vs. time where acceleration is constant.

1.4   Interpret and apply Newton’s three laws of motion.

Newtons Laws:

 1.5   Use a free-body force diagram to show forces acting on a system consisting of a pair of interacting objects. For a diagram with only co-linear forces, determine the net force acting on a system and between the objects.

Free body diagrams:

1.6   Distinguish qualitatively between static and kinetic friction, and describe their effects on the motion of objects.

Static and kinetic friction:

1.7   Describe Newton’s law of universal gravitation in terms of the attraction between two objects, their masses, and the distance between them.

Law of Universal Gravitation:

1.8   Describe conceptually the forces involved in circular motion.

Video on circular motion:


2. Conservation of Energy and Momentum

Central Concept: The laws of conservation of energy and momentum provide alternate approaches to predict and describe the movement of objects.

2.1   Interpret and provide examples that illustrate the law of conservation of energy.

Trusting physics:

2.2   Interpret and provide examples of how energy can be converted from gravitational potential energy to kinetic energy and vice versa.

Kinetic vs potential energy in song:

Vocabulary review and examples:

2.3   Describe both qualitatively and quantitatively how work can be expressed as a change in mechanical energy.

2.4   Describe both qualitatively and quantitatively the concept of power as work done per unit time.

Work and Power:

2.5   Provide and interpret examples showing that linear momentum is the product of mass and velocity, and is always conserved (law of conservation of momentum). Calculate the momentum of an object.

Video on momentum, impulse, and collisions:

3. Heat and Heat Transfer

Central Concept: Heat is energy that is transferred by the processes of convection, conduction, and radiation between objects or regions that are at different temperatures.

3.1   Explain how heat energy is transferred by convection, conduction, and radiation.

Heat transfer:

3.2   Explain how heat energy will move from a higher temperature to a lower temperature until equilibrium is reached.

3.3   Describe the relationship between average molecular kinetic energy and temperature. Recognize that energy is absorbed when a substance changes from a solid to a liquid to a gas, and that energy is released when a substance changes from a gas to a liquid to a solid. Explain the relationships among evaporation, condensation, cooling, and warming.

3.4   Explain the relationships among temperature changes in a substance, the amount of heat transferred, the amount (mass) of the substance, and the specific heat of the substance.

4. Waves

Central Concept: Waves carry energy from place to place without the transfer of matter.

4.1   Describe the measurable properties of waves (velocity, frequency, wavelength, amplitude, period) and explain the relationships among them. Recognize examples of simple harmonic motion.

Properties of waves (brief):

Properties of waves (12 min):

4.2   Distinguish between mechanical and electromagnetic waves.

4.3   Distinguish between the two types of mechanical waves, transverse and longitudinal.

Transverse vs longitudinal waves:

4.4   Describe qualitatively the basic principles of reflection and refraction of waves.

Refraction (Bill Nye):

4.5   Recognize that mechanical waves generally move faster through a solid than through a liquid and faster through a liquid than through a gas.

Sound waves in different media:


4.6   Describe the apparent change in frequency of waves due to the motion of a source or a receiver (the Doppler effect).

Doppler Effect:

5. Electromagnetism

Central Concept: Stationary and moving charged particles result in the phenomena known as electricity and magnetism.

5.1   Recognize that an electric charge tends to be static on insulators and can move on and in conductors. Explain that energy can produce a separation of charges.

5.2   Develop qualitative and quantitative understandings of current, voltage, resistance, and the connections among them (Ohm’s law).

5.3   Analyze simple arrangements of electrical components in both series and parallel circuits. Recognize symbols and understand the functions of common circuit elements (battery, connecting wire, switch, fuse, resistance) in a schematic diagram.

Series vs parallel circuits:

5.4   Describe conceptually the attractive or repulsive forces between objects relative to their charges and the distance between them (Coulomb’s law).

Positive and negative charges:

Coulomb’s Law:

5.5   Explain how electric current is a flow of charge caused by a potential difference (voltage), and how power is equal to current multiplied by voltage.

5.6   Recognize that moving electric charges produce magnetic forces and moving magnets produce electric forces. Recognize that the interplay of electric and magnetic forces is the basis for electric motors, generators, and other technologies.

6. Electromagnetic Radiation

Central Concept: Oscillating electric or magnetic fields can generate electromagnetic waves over a wide spectrum.

6.1   Recognize that electromagnetic waves are transverse waves and travel at the speed of light through a vacuum.

Boseman science – electromagnetic waves:

6.2   Describe the electromagnetic spectrum in terms of frequency and wavelength, and identify the locations of radio waves, microwaves, infrared radiation, visible light (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet), ultraviolet rays, x-rays, and gamma rays on the spectrum.

Electromagnetic spectrum:

General Physics MCAS review resources

Past Physics MCAS tests:

Play Physics Jeopardy: - .WQ8i54nyvow